It’s hard to imagine that dairy cows and tanneries once dotted the landscape now home to cool cafes, coffee roasters and creative spaces. Here’s the lowdown on a suburb reborn.
Just eight kilometres north of Brisbane, sleepy suburban Stafford is undergoing a makeover. Combining past with present, it’s now emerging as a foodie and coffee haven as industrial roots are re-imagined and succulents, crafts and artisan cheeses fill warehouse spaces, drawing fans from near and far.
Originally known as Happy Valley, Stafford began life in fairly inglorious circumstances. A rural area in the 1800s, it was known for dairy farms, Chinese market gardens and agistment for livestock. Stafford’s proximity to Kedron Brook also meant it was well located for tanneries, wool scours and fellmongeries – places that washed and processed sheep skins. Unfortunately, those activities didn’t do much for the health of the water and, by 1896, concerns were raised about pollution of the brook.
As employment grew, people, churches and schools moved in and residents mingled with trades. Most heavy industry was eventually replaced by housing and a new shopping centre opened where Gibson’s Tannery, one of the original large employers, once stood.
Now Stafford is shirking its toxic past and a new-look suburb is flourishing. The network of parkland and bike paths along Kedron Brook is being embraced as a community and wildlife resource, while the abundance of gyms and yoga studios suggests the locals are an active lot with exercise a priority. It seems coffee is, too.
Patricia, co-founder of The Soul Pantry, loves the neighbourhood’s green areas as well as the larger spaces offered for businesses, including their own airy premises, which once housed taxis. “It’s fantastic now, but it took a solid 30 days to clean it,’ she recalls with a grin and perhaps a slight grimace. She also loves the area’s strong sense of community. “We get to know a lot of people through our workshops and on the first Friday each month we have locals’ night and stay open late for dinner and get-togethers,” she says.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Lachlan Hosking across the road at Q Roasters. “Community is really important to our business. Not just the communities that produce the beans but the one here as well. These people are our friends.”
1. Elixir HQ
Creation of brother duo Jason and David Narciso, Elixir HQ is all things coffee in one place: The base of Elixir coffee’s wholesale operations and where its award-winning blends are roasted, it’s also where locals and others from afar gather for coffee pit stops with brekkie and lunch options to boot.
Coffee aficionados can pick up some serious gear then learn how to use it like a pro with Elixir’s Home Barista 101 course.
2. Q Roasters
Q Roasters – roaster, wholesaler and cafe – is serious about coffee. As a Q Grader (Q as in quality) and international judge, Lachlan Hosking knows his stuff and brings that knowledge to each unique blend. Part of the landscape since 2014, Q Roasters values sustainability, sourcing beans from producers who care for the land and people who work it. Q Roasters also sells baked goods.
3. Endeavour Foundation
Given recycled clothing is the new black, op shopping is now the height of fashion. From hats to homewares, books to boots, hidden retro treasures abound at Endeavour Foundation’s roomy retail store. If that’s not enough, there’s also a Vinnies and a Salvos nearby and, with profits supporting community works, your shopping can be guilt-free.
4. The Soul Pantry
Some spaces make your heart sing. This light-filled suburban oasis is a world of earthy discovery. What started life as a florist in the city has expanded into a haven of plants, moss-covered balls and fairy lights, with a range of unique gifts and homewares on the side and an emphasis on local.
Grab a market bunch or get creative – make a terrarium or kokedama (that’s a string ball plant), learn the art of floral arrangement or design your own bespoke workshop. There’s also a delightful selection of books for more home and garden inspo. The Soul Pantry Kitchen is the perfect spot for breakfast or a catch-up with friends. A bright and happy cafe space where kids and dogs are welcome, it also serves great food. Don’t miss the cheese puffs.
5. The Creative Collective Brisbane
In a lofty gallery where bunged-up cars were once repaired, the Creative Collective Brisbane now showcases artwork, jewellery and handcrafted works of about 40 local artists and craftspeople. Think furniture pieces, home decor, ceramics and gifts you won’t find elsewhere. Commission a piece or join an art or jewellery workshop to release your inner artist. Look out for regular exhibitions and special events.
6. Benga Box
When you want to party without bothering the neighbours, Stafford has you covered. Tucked away in a secure warehouse, Benga Box offers a safe venue space for weekend hire, without fear of noise complaints. BYO food and music and it will supply the tech stuff, lectern, stages and dance floor. Happy neighbours = winning.
7. Pod Espresso
Neighbourhood Pod Espresso combines your caffeine hit with wholesome organic food choices, such as Rice bowls, nutritious salads or wraps. Take your frappe inside under the changing gallery of artwork by local kids and adults, or pull up a pew outside to soak in the sun. Check the specials board,where bagels often appear as one of the headline acts.
8. The Cheeseboard
Tucked up the back of The Soul Pantry warehouse in a white shipping container, The Cheeseboard is home to spectacular artisan Australian cheeses, many from local dairies. It’s also where Wendy Downes, one of just a handful of Australian affineurs (those who mature cheeses), carefully finishes cheeses in climate-controlled caves for wholesale. Enjoy a delicious cheese platter with a matching beer or wine, take a cheese masterclass with various pairings or pick up some select gourmet items and cheese accessories.